Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

The Eighth Circuit United States Court of Appeals recently released an opinion affirming a jury verdict in favor of a defendant after a trial was held on the plaintiffs’ allegations surrounding the death of their 23-month-old son. The boy drowned in a pond after he climbed from his crib in the middle of the night and left his home, getting past a doorknob cover that was intended to keep the child from using the door. On appeal, the plaintiffs argued that the district court was mistaken in permitting testimony that the boy’s mother failed to secure a secondary chain lock on the door on the night of the boy’s death.

The Tragic Drowning of the Plaintiffs’ Child

The plaintiffs in the case of Coterel v. Dorel Juvenile Group were the parents of a boy who died after he wandered from the family home in the middle of the night and drowned in a nearby pond. The boy’s parents awoke in the morning to find the front door to their home ajar and the boy missing from his crib. Minutes later, the boy’s father found him floating unresponsive in the pond, approximately 50 yards from the home. The defendant in the case was the manufacturer of a doorknob cover that the couple had received as a gift and had been using to keep the child from operating the front door. After the boy’s death, the plaintiffs filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the manufacturer, alleging that the doorbell cover was a dangerous product that failed to work as intended and that it was negligently manufactured and marketed by the defendant.

The Jury Found the Defendant Was Not at Fault at Trial

The plaintiffs’ product liability and negligence claims went to trial, and the jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant. During trial, evidence was introduced over the plaintiffs’ objection that the parents had previously witnessed their son defeating the doorknob cover, and they installed a chain lock on the front door after noticing this. The defendant argued at trial that the plaintiffs knew the doorknob cover wouldn’t keep the child from leaving the home, and they were negligent by failing to use the additional lock. The jury was not required to explain their decision on the verdict form and indicated only that the defendant should not be liable for the boy’s death.

Continue reading →

The Supreme Court of Oklahoma recently released a decision granting a plaintiff’s request to prevent the enforcement of an order issued by the judge presiding over a wrongful death case. The initial order had denied the plaintiff’s request to amend their complaint and add additional defendants of whom the plaintiff was initially unaware. Although the state supreme court denied the plaintiff’s request to immediately force the trial judge to grant their motion to amend the complaint, the most recent ruling will result in further proceedings at the district court level to determine if the plaintiff is entitled to hold the additional parties responsible in the wrongful death case.

The Plaintiff’s Claim of Nursing Home Neglect and Wrongful Death

The plaintiff in the case of Maree v. Willow Park Health Care Center is the personal representative of the estate of a woman who died while she was a patient at a long-term nursing facility operated by the defendants. According to the facts discussed in the appellate opinion, the lawsuit alleges that the defendant negligently failed to respond to an assistance call made by the patient, resulting in her suffering injuries in a fall while she attempted to use the bathroom unassisted. The plaintiff’s claim further alleges that the defendants failed to adequately respond after the patient was injured, ultimately resulting in her death two days later. Based on the alleged negligence of the nursing home operators, the plaintiff filed a wrongful death lawsuit seeking damages from the defendant.

The Plaintiff’s Attempt to Pierce the Corporate Veil is Denied

After filing the wrongful death claim, the plaintiff became aware of additional parties who acted as owners/managers of the defendant nursing home corporation and sought to add them as defendants to the case. Although corporate owners and members cannot generally be held personally accountable for negligence committed by the corporation, the plaintiff argued that case discovery would find evidence that the additional defendants were personally involved in the daily operations of the nursing home and could be held personally accountable for their role in the patient’s death. After hearing argument on the plaintiff’s motion, the trial court ruled that the proposed defendants could not be added and denied the plaintiff’s request to conduct additional discovery on the defendants. The plaintiff appealed the ruling to the state supreme court and sought an order blocking the enforcement of the trial court’s order.

Continue reading →

The Supreme Court of South Carolina recently released a decision reversing a lower appellate decision that determined the defendant nursing home maintained their right to compel arbitration of the plaintiff’s wrongful death claim against them, filed on behalf of the plaintiff’s deceased mother. The state supreme court determined that by litigating several issues both before and after the decedent’s passing, the defendant had given up their right to enforce an arbitration agreement signed by the plaintiff when her mother moved into the nursing home.The Plaintiff’s Mother’s Health Declined Quickly after Moving into the Nursing Home

The case of Johnson v. Heritage Healthcare was filed based on the plaintiff’s mother’s quickly deteriorating health and eventual death while living in a nursing home operated by the defendant. According to the facts recited in the supreme court opinion, the plaintiff’s mother was in good health when she moved into the home, but her condition dramatically worsened within six months of moving in. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant’s negligence resulted in her mother’s poor health and eventual death, and she filed a wrongful death lawsuit against them after her mother’s passing.

Prior to the Wrongful Death Lawsuit, the Plaintiff Sought Her Mother’s Medical Records from the Defendant

After her mother’s condition worsened but before her death, the plaintiff filed an action against the defendant, seeking her mother’s medical records to determine why her health had deteriorated so quickly while under the defendant’s care. Although the plaintiff had signed an agreement to pursue claims through arbitration rather than in a state court proceeding, the defendant responded to the plaintiff’s claims in state court. The defendant vehemently resisted the plaintiff’s attempt to access her mother’s medical records, refusing to turn them over after the court ordered that they do so. Until her mother died, the plaintiff was unable to access her medical records in spite of the court’s order compelling the defendant to release them.

Continue reading →

By this time, most people have heard at least something about the tragic degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy, otherwise known as CTE. This brain injury has been making headlines across the United States as it was recently discovered that many professional athletes have been suffering with this deadly disease.In the past, CTE was most frequently associated with professional boxers. In fact, it was often called “punch-drunk” syndrome. It is a type of brain damage which is caused by repeated trauma to the head. It is considered a degenerative disease because it persists and worsens over time, and eventually leads the brain to be susceptible to atrophy.

Sadly, the symptoms of CTE are particularly devastating. The most reported symptoms include impulse control issues, memory and cognition impairments, confusion, early-onset dementia, and other mental health problems. As the disease progresses it can lead to behavioral issues including: aggression, severe depression, and even suicidal tendencies. Until very recently, the disease could only be diagnosed after the individual has passed away. There has been some research that revealed signs of CTE just prior to a football player’s death; however, it is still generally considered to be a condition that can only be diagnosed after death.

Continue reading →

Linda Porter’s son, Pete Thomas, died 12 years ago in a New Port Richey hospital. Now Porter goes to rock concerts and imagines her long-haired guitarist son with her in the audience. This April, Pete would have been 50 years old.

In October 2014, the 38-year-old was admitted to the Morton Plant North Bay Hospital with abdominal pain. Less than 24 hours had passed before he went into respiratory arrest and was put on a ventilator. He died roughly six weeks later. Porter believes the hospital caused Pete’s death by over-medicating him.

Continue reading →

A Florida appellate court recently reversed a lower court’s ruling that when the amount of the judgment in a tort case is modified on appeal, post-trial interest must accrue from the date of the verdict rather than from the date of the original judgment. The court reasoned that the earlier accrual date in such circumstances unjustly punishes the losing party.In the fall of 2011, a jury rendered a verdict of roughly $7.5 million in a wrongful death lawsuit, finding appellate Shoemaker 40 percent at fault for decedent Stephen Sliger’s death. Following the verdict, Shoemaker and his co-defendants filed a motion to cap non-economic damages according to section 766.118(2) of Florida Statutes. They argued that under 766.118, the non-economic damages should be capped at $500,000. Sonia Sliger, the representative of Stephen Sliger’s estate, responded that section 766.118’s damages limitation violated the Florida and U.S. constitutions.

Continue reading →

In Soto v. McCulley Marine Services, Inc., a man tragically drowned near Longboat Pass on July 4, 2009 when he fell from a jet ski and was sucked underneath a moored barge while wearing a life preserver.   At the time of the unfortunate drowning, a nearby dock was being used as a staging area in connection with an ongoing artificial reef program established by Manatee County. When the man drowned, the barge and a 65-foot tugboat that were permitted to participate in the reef building program were both moored at the dock.

Following the man’s untimely passing, his estate filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the owner of the two ships. According to the man’s personal representative, the ships were docked in a negligent manner. As a result, the configuration of the vessels allegedly exacerbated the strong tides that were present in the area and caused the man to be pulled beneath the barge despite his safety jacket.

Continue reading →

In Geico General Ins. Co. v. Lepine, a Florida man was unfortunately killed in a motor vehicle collision. Following the accident, the man’s wife filed a lawsuit on behalf of herself and her husband’s estate against the driver who was allegedly responsible for the fatal traffic wreck and his automobile insurer. According to the woman’s complaint, the insurance company reneged on its verbal agreement to pay her the full policy limits of $100,000.

In response to the lawsuit, the insurer filed a motion to dismiss the breach of contract claims brought against the company. In its motion, the business argued Section 627.4136 of the Florida Statutes barred the decedent’s wife from filing a direct cause of action against the insurance company. Under the so-called nonjoinder statute, a noninsured may not file a direct action against an insurance company in Florida without first obtaining a settlement or verdict against the insured party.

Continue reading →

In Bryant v. Windhaven Ins. Co., a Florida man purchased a personal automobile liability policy from an insurance company. After securing the policy, the man operated a van in the course of his employment with a daycare center. As part of his job duties, the man picked up children and drove them to the daycare center each day. Tragically, the driver apparently picked up an infant and forgot the child in the van in July 2011. The infant unfortunately passed away before he was discovered, strapped into his car seat seven hours later.

Following the child’s untimely death, his estate filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the driver, the daycare center, and the owner of the property where the daycare operated. In response to the case, the driver requested that his personal automobile insurer defend and indemnify him. The insurer responded by stating the policy did not apply to the daycare center’s van. According to the insurer, the man’s insurance policy explicitly excluded liability arising from any vehicle that was being used in the course of a driver’s employment and any vehicle other than that covered by the policy that was “furnished or available” for a driver’s regular use.

Continue reading →

In Morales v. Zenith Ins. Co., a Florida man was tragically killed in a workplace accident. Following the fatal incident, the decedent’s wife agreed to a workers’ compensation settlement with the man’s employer and the employer’s insurance company. The wife also signed a release stating the settlement was the sole remedy for which the insurer would provide coverage to the employer.

Prior to the workers’ compensation settlement, the man’s estate filed a wrongful death action against the man’s employer. As a result, a default judgment of nearly $10 million was entered in favor of the estate. After the employer’s insurer refused to pay the judgment, the estate filed a breach of contract lawsuit against the insurance company in a Florida court. The insurer removed the case to the Middle District of Florida and filed a motion for summary judgment. In its motion, the insurer argued that a workers’ compensation exclusion included in the employer’s policy barred the estate from suing the company. The federal court then granted the insurance company’s motion and entered judgment in its favor.

Continue reading →

Contact Information